MESSAGE TO CHINA
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a meeting with members of the Filipino community Reuters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte tweaked the brash declaration on US relations he made in China and clarified he was not closing diplomatic ties with the United States, a longtime ally of the Philippines.

"You have to take my words in the context of what I've been saying all along. It's not a severance of ties. When you say severance of ties, you cut diplomatic ties. I cannot do that. It's in the best interest of my country that we maintain that relationship (with the US)," Duterte said at a news conference in Davao.

A day after he provoked fresh diplomatic alarm over ties with the US, Duterte was attempting to clarify his announcement regarding his 'separation' from Washington.

Difference between 'sever' and 'separate'

"What I was saying is separation of foreign policy that it need not dovetail with the foreign policy of America. That's what I meant. 'Sever' is to cut. 'Separate' is just to chart another way of doing things'," he said.

At a major business forum in China on Thursday, Duterte had declared : "In this venue, your honours... I announce my separation from the United States... Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost."

After his comments, the White House expressed concern saying there had been "too many" troubling statements from Duterte recently.

Later, Trade Minister Ramon Lopez clarified Duterte's statement and said he "did not talk about separation. In terms of economic ties, we are not stopping trade, investment with America".

Economic Planning Minister Ernesto Pernia also said "it is a rebalancing. It is not a separation".

"For a long time, we have not taken very seriously our economic relations with China. This time, we feel we should really engage with China stronger," he added.

Reasons for not severing ties

In his recent clarification, Duterte said more than three million Filipinos are living in the US. Hence, he cannot disconnect completely from Washington. Duterte acknowledged that a majority of the Philippines' population of over 100 million are still pro-American.

"There are many Filipinos in the US. The people of my country is also not ready to accept (a break with the US)," he said. Recently, a survey showed that one in two Filipinos still distrust China while 90 per cent of them love the US more than most Americans.

The Philippines president has been facing a lot of US criticism due to his campaign against illegal drugs and drug dealers that has already killed more than 3,500 people in his country since he took office on June 30,

He rejected all those criticism and showed his displeasure by calling the US President Barack Obama a "son of a whore", and ended war games and sea patrols between the Philippines and the US. However, later he expressed his regrets for making such comments.